10th Week in Ordinary Time
1st Reading: 1 K 18:20–39
So Ahab sent for all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets at Mount Carmel. Then Elijah addressed the people and asked, “How long will you follow two ways at the same time? If Yahweh is God, follow him; but if Baal is God then follow him.” The people remained silent.
So Elijah continued, “I am the only prophet of Yahweh left here to face Baal’s four hundred and fifty prophets. Get us two bulls. Let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it into pieces and lay it on the wood and I will do the same with the other bull. But we will not set it on fire. Then you shall call on the name of your god while I shall call on the name of Yahweh. The God who answers with fire is the true one.” Then the people answered, “That is right.”
Then Elijah told the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many. Then call on the name of your god lest you are left without fire!” So they took the bull and prepared it, and they called on the name of Baal, “Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice and no one answered them while they went on dancing on one foot around the altar they had built.
By noontime, Elijah began to mock them, “Shout out louder. Baal is a busy god; or he may have gone out or perhaps he has gone on a trip, or he is sleeping and must be wakened.” So they shouted louder gashing their skin with knives, as they are used to doing, until they bled. It was already past noon and they were still raving on until the time of the evening offering. But still there was no voice; no one answered or gave a sign of life.
Then Elijah said to the people, “Draw closer to me,” and the people drew closer to him. He then repaired the altar of Yahweh which had been thrown down. He took twelve stones corresponding to the number of tribes of the sons of Jacob whom Yahweh had addressed saying, “Israel shall be your name.” With these stones, he built an altar to the Name of Yahweh and dug a trench around it that would contain about thirty liters. He then arranged the firewood, cut the bull in pieces and laid them on the wood. Then, he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the firewood.” He said, “Do it again”; and they did it again; “one more time,” and they did it a third time. The water ran around the altar and filled the trench.
When the time of the evening offering came, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant, doing all these things at your command. Answer me, O Yahweh, answer me so that this people may know that you, O Yahweh, are God and that you are turning back their hearts to you.” Then the fire of Yahweh fell and consumed the burnt offering, together with the wood, the stones also, and the dust; the water also dried up in the trench.
All the people witnessed this. Then they fell on their faces and said, “Yahweh is God! Yahweh is God!”
Gospel: Matthew 5:17-19
Jesus said to his disciples, “Do not think that I have come to remove the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to remove but to fulfill them. I tell you this: as long as heaven and earth last, not the smallest letter or stroke of the Law will change until all is fulfilled.
“So then, whoever breaks the least important of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be the least in the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, whoever obeys them and teaches others to do the same will be great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Why is Jesus – the One who sends the Spirit – talking about the letter of the Law, even parts of a letter? We will enter into life, he wants to say, not by tampering with the Law – either to make it stricter (as the scribes and Pharisees liked to do) or more tax (as we might all like to do) – but by a very different way. Leave the law just as it is, on the page. There is nothing wrong with it. It is law, but it is not life nor the secret of life.
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